Vermivora celataorange-crowned warbler

Geographic Range

Orange-crowned warblers (Vermivora celata) can be found throughout North America, except for the central United States region. During the summer breeding season, the species is primarily found along the western United States (as far east as Colorado/New Mexico) and all of Canada. During the winter non-breading season, members of the species migrate to southern United States and throughout all of Mexico. Some locations throughout the coast of California are known to be home to orange-crowned warblers year-round. (Allen, et al., 1983; Gilbert, et al., 2010)


The orange-crowned warbler can be found living in trees and shrub in forest or forest like areas such as parks or urban neighborhoods. During the summer breeding seasons, it is mostly found in mountainous forests between 1000 and 3000 m in elevation. In the winter non-breeding seasons, the habitat of the orange-crowned warbler includes open field such as gardens or parks. Research by Kroll et all. (2007) found that the orange-crowned warbler was far more likely to be seen nesting in deciduous trees than evergreen species. (Gilbert, et al., 2010; Kroll, et al., 2007)

  • Range elevation
    1000 to 3000 m
    3280.84 to 9842.52 ft

Physical Description

The orange-crowned warbler is known to be duller in color than other wood-warbler species. The back, rump, and tail feathers are olive-green, while the breast and belly are a dull yellow with hints of green. The neck and crown is olive-green with a yellow on the throat and around the eyes. The most distinctive feature on the orange-crowned warbler is an patch of orange feathers on the crown. However, the orange patch is often hidden under the more dominant olive-green feathers, making it mostly only seen in adult males. Juvenile (birds who have completed up to their first molt) warbler have feathers smaller in size and are also grayer in color. (Allen, et al., 1983; Foster, 1967; Gilbert, et al., 2010)

The orange-crowned warbler weighs from 9.2 to 10.8 grams with an average weight of 9.8 grams. The species' length is 11 cm to 14 cm with a wingspan between 60-63 mm and an average wingspan of 61.7 mm. The only size difference found between sexes is that female wingspan is ~3 mm shorter. (Gilbert, et al., 2010)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range mass
    9.2 to 10.8 g
    0.32 to 0.38 oz
  • Average mass
    9.8 g
    0.35 oz
  • Range length
    11 to 14 cm
    4.33 to 5.51 in
  • Average length
    13 cm
    5.12 in
  • Range wingspan
    60 to 63 mm
    2.36 to 2.48 in
  • Average wingspan
    61.7 mm
    2.43 in


A territorial orange-crowned warbler male will pair with a single female for the breeding season. The male attracts the female to it's territory through song. The song indicates the male is still in search of a partner. The male goes silent after a mate is found.

Once paired, the two warblers follow each other and forage in close proximity. There is no indication that either sex follow the other more frequently. When another song-bird nears the female or the nest, the male confronts the song-bird and chases it away. The female will show no aggression in the presence of an intruder.

Only the female warbler builds the nest. The nests are built on the ground under cover, or hidden in trees. (Gilbert, 1994; Green, 1988)

The orange-crowned warbler is a seasonal breeder. The female produces one clutch from late April through mid-August. An average clutch size contains between 4 to 5 eggs(maximum=6). The egg is oval in shape, averaging 16.2 mm long and 12.7 mm in diameter. The egg has a white base with scattered red markings. (Bent, 1953)

After hatching, the young warbler weighs an average of 1.5 g (range 1.3 to 1.6 g). After an average of 13 days (range: 10-14), the orange-crowned warbler reaches its fledgling stage. At this stage the young have wing and tail feathers that are developed enough to sustain short flights out of the nest. The parents continue to feed the young a few more days after leaving the nest. In the following year the warbler will be ready to partake in its first breeding season. (Bent, 1953; Foster, 1967; Gilbert, et al., 2010)

  • Breeding interval
    Females lay eggs each year during the summer months
  • Breeding season
    late April through middle of August
  • Range eggs per season
    4 to 6
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    10 days
  • Range fledging age
    10 to 14 days
  • Average fledging age
    13 days
  • Range time to independence
    13 to 15 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

The female orange-crowned warbler lays and incubate the eggs. While the female incubates the eggs, the male solely defends territory. During the pre-weaning stage, both the male and the female feed the young for up to 2 weeks until it is fully fledged. (Bent, 1953; Gilbert, 1994)


The orange-crowned warbler lives on average 8.6 years in the wild. The lifespan is represented by recapture age of banded warbler and does not show variation between sexes. The orange-crowned warbler is not kept in captivity. (Lutmerding, 2016)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    8.6 years


The orange-crowned warbler is a migratory bird. Its breeding seasons correlate with its migrations. After migrating to the north, a male and female form a pair and produce 1 clutch of eggs. When migrating to the south it spends the majority of its time foraging independently.

During breeding seasons the male orange-crowned warbler establishes a territory by singing. This song will also signal to a female that he is searching for a mate. Once a pair is made it will stay together for the entire breeding season. If an intruder (another song-bird) inters the territory the male will ruffle its feathers making the orange crown visible. Then it will chase the intruding song bird out of its territory.

The orange-crowned warbler forages during the day and will build its nest in either a tree on shrub on the ground. (Bent, 1953; Gilbert, 1994)

  • Range territory size
    15 (high) m^2

Home Range

The male orange-crowned warbler was observed to have a home range around 0.02 km^2. While breeding it does not forage more than 15 m^2 from its nest. protects territory within that range (Gilbert, 1994; Green, 1988)

Communication and Perception

The orange-crowned warbler is know as a song bird. Its song overall is a high pitched trill that has slight changes to pattern in different situations.The situations depend on if it is perched singing to claim territory or attract a mate. The other situation is when the warbler sings its flight song.

The orange-crowned warbler uses visual and olfactory senses when scavenging for food and maintaining awareness of surroundings. (Gilbert, 1983; Martin and Martin, 2001; Peterson, 2010)

Food Habits

The orange-crowned warbler is omnivorous. Over 90% of their diet consists of caterpillars, arthropods, and other various other insect/larvae. The orange-crowned warbler will opportunistically consume any invertebrates 2.5-15 mm long. The remaining 10% of the diet includes seeds, fruit, and sap. (Gilbert, et al., 2010)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • sap or other plant fluids


The orange-crowned warbler builds its nest at ground level making its brood easily accessible to small mammals and snakes such as the Santa Catalina Island fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae), and the gopher snake (Pituophis melanoleucus). It does build its nests under cover to protect from aerial prey such as the western scrub jay (Aphelocoma californica). Briskie et al., (1999) found that the decibels(dB) in the begging call used by hatch-lings to to communicate with their parents had a positive correlation with nest predation. Hatch-lings with higher dB calls were far more susceptible to nest predation. The orange-crowned warbler adapted a lower dB begging call than a similar species in the same family the Virginia warbler (Vermivora virginiae) making the orange-crowned warbler less susceptible to predation. (Briskie, et al., 1999; Peluc, et al., 2008)

Ecosystem Roles

The orange-crowned warbler is a host to three parasitic lice Ricinus picturatus, Menacanthus, and Philopterus. The louse lays its eggs while still on the parent warbler before the clutch hatches. This is so the new ouse can be ready to transfer to juvenile warbler once hatched. The orange-crowned warbler is also host to three different parasitic protozoa Leucocytozoon, Trypanosoma, and Haemoproteus that are located in the blood. (Foster, 1969a; Foster, 1969b; Gilbert, et al., 2010)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Lice (Ricinus picturatus)
  • Lice (Menacanthus)
  • Lice (Philopterus)
  • Protozoans (Leucocytozoon)
  • Protozoans (Trypanosoma)
  • Protozoans (Haemoproteus)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The orange-crowned warbler plays a role in ecotourism. It is one of many species of birds used to attract birdwatchers and other tourists. This is done in the attempt to promote wildlife conservation. (Horwich, 2005)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse economic effects of Vermivora celata on humans

Conservation Status

The orange-crowned warbler is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red list. The IUNC Red List indicates that the population is rising. The orange-crowned warbler is also protected under the US Migratory Bird Act. CITES and federal list do not have a special status for the orange-crowned warbler.

Gilbert, Sogge, and Van Riper III (2010), states that the deforestation of large trees such as California redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) increases the warbler population due to an increase in the amount of shrub in the area. Increasing the amount of shrub creates more nesting sites for the warbler. However, deforestation in Alaska is destroying the forest understory creating a decline in possible nest sites. It also states that non-native herbivore in California like the feral pig are destroying nesting grounds for the orange-crowned warbler. (Gilbert, et al., 2010)


Joshua Turner (author), Radford University, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Zeb Pike (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


a distribution that more or less circles the Arctic, so occurring in both the Nearctic and Palearctic biogeographic regions.

World Map

Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.


uses sight to communicate


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Bent, A. 1953. Life histories of North America wood warblers. New York: Dover Publications.

Briskie, J., P. Martin, T. Martin. 1999. Nest predation and the evolution of nestling begging calls. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 266/1434: 2153-2159.

Foster, M. 1967. Pterylography and age determination in the orange-crowned warbler. Condor, 69/1: 1-12.

Foster, M. 1969. Synchronized life cycles of the orange-crowned warbler and its mallophagan parasites. Ecology, 50/2: 315-323.

Foster, M. 1969. The eggs of three species of Mallophaga and their significance in ecological studies. The Journal of Parasitology, 55/2: 453-456.

Gilbert, W., M. Sogge, C. Van Riper III. 2010. "Orange-crowned Warbler" (On-line). The Birds of North America. Accessed January 28, 2016 at

Gilbert, W. 1983. Flight song and song flight in the orange-crowned warbler. Condor, 85/1: 113.

Gilbert, W. 1994. Intrusion, and resident pair responses, during the breeding cycle of the orange-crowned warbler. Journal of Avian Biology, 25/2: 105-111.

Green, M. 1988. Orange-crowned warbler. Pp. B425 in R Duke, D Winkler, eds. Life History Accounts for Species in the California Wildlife Habitat Relationships. Sacramento, California: California Depart. of Fish and Game.

Horton, B., J. Toon, C. Ghalambor, I. Moore, S. Scott. 2010. Seasonal and population variation in male testosterone levels in breeding orange-crowned warblers (Vermivora celata). General and Comparative Endocrinology, 168/3: 333-339.

Horwich, R. 2005. Communities saving Wisconsin birds: North and south. The Passenger Pigeon, 67/1: 85-98.

Kelly, J. 2006. Stable isotope evidence links breeding geography and migration timing in wood warblers (Parulidae). Auk, 123/2: 431-437.

Kroll, A., S. Duke, D. Runde, E. Arnett, A. Kelly. 2007. Modeling habitat occupancy of orange-crowned warblers in managed forests of Oregon and Washington, USA. Journal of Wildlife Management, 71/4: 1089-1097.

Lockwood, M. 2007. Basic Texas Birds: A Field Guide. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.

Lutmerding, J. 2016. "USGS" (On-line). Longevity Record of North American Birds. Accessed March 16, 2016 at

Martin, P., T. Martin. 2001. Behavioral interactions between coexisting species: Song playback experiments with wood warblers. Ecology, 82/1: 207-218.

Martin, P., T. Martin. 2001. Ecological and fitness consequences of species coexistence: A removal experiment with wood warblers. Ecology, 82/1: 189-206.

Martin, T., L. Pingjun. 1992. Life history traits of open- vs. cavity- nesting birds. Ecology, 73/2: 579-592.

Peluc, S., S. Sillett, J. Rotenberry, C. Ghalambor. 2008. Adaptive phenotypic plasticity in an island songbird exposed to a novel predation risk. Behavioral Ecology, 19/4: 830-835.

Peterson, R. 2010. Peterson's Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.